The Birth of the Violin, contrasting works for the early violin / Le Miroir de Musique


The Birth of the Violin explores the earliest repertoire for the emerging 'vyolon' during the first half of the sixteenth century. On this Ricecar album, both sacred and secular examples are presented, in polyphonic settings of three and four parts, or with the violin appearing as a solo instrument accompanied by lute or renaissance harp. Several pieces include a solo vocal line, beautifully sung in a pure and simple manner by early music specialist Sabine Lutzenberger. Baptiste Romain plays the renaissance violin and directs the Basel based ensemble Le Miroir de Musique, a group specializing in music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Most of the music here comes from Northern Italy and is based on vocal models; it is polyphonic and highly imitative. Aside from the renaissance violin, Le Miroir de Musique performs on lute, recorder, renaissance guitar and harp, and viola d'arco, an instrument slightly larger than the renaissance violin, which is played upright rather than off the shoulder, in the manner of a viola da gamba. Of course, no vibrato is present at all in these authentic performances of unpretentious musicality and transparent textures.

Including works by Jacob Obrecht, Josquin Desprez, Antoine Brumel and Adriaen Willaert, the album contains music by well known Renaissance masters as well as many lesser known composers including Costanzo Festa, Francesco Bendusi and Filippo da Lurano. It's a very pleasant hour of music, varied, gracefully performed and easy to enjoy. It also sheds light on the simple roots of an instrument that later would inspire composers to write some of the most virtuosic music in history.

The music on this video is also take from the Ricercar CD under review here, and appears as the final track of the album.